Quicker Therapy Gives New Hope to OCD Patients

    Campus researchers may have made groundbreaking progress on
    cognitive-behavioral therapy last week when they demonstrated that as little as
    four weeks of daily treatment can produce significant changes in brain activity
    in obsessive-compulsive disorder patients.

    Past studies have shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy
    causes a decrease in elevated activity along the frontal-subcortical circuits
    of the brain. However, these studies examined changes over at least 12 weeks,
    the standard duration of OCD treatment, making the discoveries of the most
    recent four-week study notable.

    “First of all, we discovered significant changes in brain
    activity solely as the result of four weeks of intensive cognitive-behavioral therapy,”
    Sanjaya Saxena, director of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders Program at the
    UCSD School of Medicine, said in a press release. “Secondly, these changes were
    different than those seen in past studies after a standard 12-week therapeutic
    approach using SRI medications or weekly behavioral therapy.”

    The therapy, known as “exposure and response prevention,”
    gradually eliminates patients’ obsessive fears or worries by desensitizing them
    to the objects or tasks that provoke them.

    “This is the primary kind of therapy used for OCD,” Saxena
    said. “It teaches patients to pay attention to their internal experiences and
    tolerate scary thoughts without having to act on them. They learn that nothing
    terrible happens if they refrain from their usual compulsive behaviors.”

    After a four-week session, the 10 OCD patients in the study
    showed substantial improvements in symptoms as well as depression, anxiety and
    overall functioning.

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